GOLFING legend Arnold Palmer has described building his first course in Scotland as “an honour” as progress on the project in the Highlands drives on.
The iconic star spoke as two-world leading golf course architects from his design company continue working on plans for a new course on the shores of the Moray Firth near Inverness.
Palmer and his team, who have worked on numerous course design projects around the globe, claim the project at Castle Stuart Links is one of the most exciting in which they have been involved with over the last 40 years.
The multi-Major winner said: “From the day I first travelled to Scotland in 1960 to play in the Open Championship, I have been enamoured with the country and its people.
“The landscape and the history of the game all combine to make it such a special place in golf. To have an opportunity to design and build a great golf course in Scotland is an honour.”
The public will get the opportunity to view plans for the second course at Castle Stuart later this month. Construction on the new course is expected to begin in March 2016.
The project is expected to bring a huge economic boost to the region, but the designers stress a priority will be to protect and enhance the spectacular environment.
Palmer and two of his senior architects, Thad Layton and Brandon Johnson, have been working closely with the Castle Stuart team over the last few months.
Layton and Johnson will set up home near Inverness to work on site with the local team as the new course takes shape.
Castle Stuart has submitted a pre-application report to The Highland Council on the plans and will provide updated information at a public consultation day in Ardersier on 16 June. It is envisaged a detailed planning application will be submitted in August.
Mr Johnson said: “This is why we go to study golf courses all over the world, to have opportunities like this. To be able to create something that is fun and creative on such a naturally beautiful piece of property is every golf course architect’s dream. We hope people walk off the 18th green and immediately want to go back to the first tee to play again.”
Mr Layton added: “We are always looking for great sites to work on and sophisticated clients to work with. That is what this opportunity provides.”
If the proposed timetable goes to plan, the first nine holes of the new course will be completed in 2016 and the second nine in 2017, with the course ready to play a year later, ahead of its official opening.
Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart Golf Links, said: “The second course at Castle Stuart will provide a huge economic boost for Inverness, the Highlands and Scotland.
“However, we want to ensure it is developed in the correct way, with community backing and with the support of local and national statutory bodies.
“We have won environmental awards for our sensitive development and maintenance of the original course and we work in the same way on the new course so we can produce something everyone is proud of and brings maximum benefit to this area.
“The public consultation meeting will help us keep the community informed of our plans as we embark on this exciting new journey at Castle Stuart.”
Castle Stuart Golf Links has achieved global acclaim in its first six years and was placed at No. 56 on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World in 2013.
It staged the Scottish Open for three successive years from 2011-2013, with the 2013 championship, won by Phil Mickelson, reaching a worldwide television audience of more than 500 million.